Archive for January, 2007

There is just so much to tell and write about. We only have access to Brent’s computer which he brings home each night. Sometimes I’m so tired from the day’s activities, that I don’t have the energy to write much.

 But this week has been spent in recuperating from Jerusalem, schoolwork, doing laundry (a challenge when the dryer doesn’t function very well and it is raining. . . hard to dry three large loads), going to the campus grocery store which packs a lot into little space but strangely enough, no diapers, and then a day trip to a family we met at church.

 Today, the kids and I took the train to a town just a few minutes north of Tel Aviv and met some new friends from church. They are also American ex-pats living in Israel for a a couple of years. We had common experiences with moving to another country and the challenges that the brings. Nicole told me a lot about the country and gave me some good tips. The boys enjoyed playing with her boys. It was so easy with the train that we will meet again next week.

Our ride home on the train was a lot of fun. It was really busy as everyone was commuting home after work. We met and talked with three soldiers and learned more about their work. The first soldier was sitting by an Australian tourist who spoke a little Hebrew. The soldier’s English was poor but he was friendly. The Aussie chatted with us, told us about a cool tank museum, and translated a bit for us when we talked to the soldier. I asked the soldier if I could take a picture of him. He said of course and that he was also a photographer. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. But the tourist asked him where his gun was- and he took out his camera. Apparently, the soldier’s job in the military was to take pictures. After this exchange, I felt enboldened and chatted with two other soldiers. One was a female senior officer who works with computers. Another was a junior officer in charge of a bio-medical lab. I found out that service in the military is compulsary and that men serve for 3 years and women serve just under 2 years.  I thought that was quite interesting. Even though Israel has a large immigrant population, it is still amazing to think that if needed, they could immobilize most of the adult population in military service. They don’t do this. I believe most often they call up the men, but usually excuse the women.

That was probably the first experience we had that was more up-close with the Israeli population. We were sitting down together, traveling to various destinations and so people felt that they had a little time to talk with curious Americans.

Brent met us at the train station and we went out to dinner. We enjoyed some fast food and then went to the grocery store.

Our walk home through the campus was really interesting. Campus is very beautiful at night. The Particle Accelerator tower is lit up in purpleish lights. I tried and tried to capture it on my camera, but I kept moving the camera. I didn’t bring our ???? I have totally lost the word–the thing that you set your camera on and it holds it stationary while you take pictures. Anyhow, who wants to lug that around when you already have a big diaper bag full of baby stuff plus a few books (I borrowed them from Nicole).

It was a nice day. Now, I’ll try and finish the rest of our Jerusalem excursion as the weekend is fast approaching and we have more sightseeing to do and describe. . . 


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Our second stop of the day was just over the next mountain on Mount Scopus to go to BYU Jerusalem Center. We enjoyed our informal tour. It’s so nice when the guides understand and tailor the tour to the needs of small, active boys.

The Jerusalem Center is beautiful. I shall not go into great detail because many of you have seen pictures, visited it or heard of it. Basically it is an 8-floor building that is built into the mountain. Five of the floors are for the students who live and study there.

We enjoyed the organ recital from the missionary: Elder Michael Moody. (Carol, I think you may know him.) He played three pieces and we looked out on the amazing view of the Old City while he played. My heart was really touched by the stirring and powerful strains of Come, Come Ye Saints. And then he played Prelude on Deliverance, a piece I had learned while studying organ with Carol. I was so excited and mentioned that I had learned the piece. Then Elder and Sister Moody asked if I would like to play the organ. Of course I did. So with a little help with the stops, I played a beautiful and peaceful rendition of Jesus, Once of Humble Birth.

I’m having trouble uploading my pictures, but we did take pictures of me playing the organ. It was really an experience.

After the brief organ recital, we went outside and viewed the city. They had different models of how the city appeared at different periods. That was really helpful for understanding the layout of the city. Then we toured the biblical garden, saw plants from biblical times, learned how an olive press worked and saw a few different types of olive presses, learned how wine was made, (well, I don’t think our guide ever used the word wine, but that’s what it would have been made into eventually after everyone squashed the grapes with their feet) and finally learned about the 1000- year- old (I think) olive tree that was transplanted from Galilee. It unfortunately, didn’t survive the transplant very well, but it has many new shoots that are coming from its branches. Yes, there are all sorts of Biblical allusions there and I’ll leave that to you to ponder.

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The Mount of Olives was on my must-see list. Our guide took us there first in the morning. I later read in the three different guidebooks that I have, that the morning is the best time to go to the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives is significant to me for three reasons.

1. It figures heavily in prophecy.  (Zechariah 14:4-5; D&C 45:48: 133:20) Christ is to come to the Mount and stand upon it and the mount shall split in two.

2. On the western side of the mount lies the Garden of Gethsamane where Christ prayed and began the atonement.

3. It commands an incredibly impressive view of Jerusalem.

We drove there–leaving the comfortable highway and turned onto winding roads that took us through a Palestinian area. While in the Palestinian section, we saw a young teenage boy riding a donkey. I felt like Amelia Peabody. (see Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters)

We parked by the viewpoint and saw a beautiful camel and a gorgeous white donkey. Of course, for a fee, you could sit on the camel or donkey and get a picture taken. You could even take a ride. Various vendors were walking around, selling jewelry (for the pretty lady) pictures of Jerusalem and books. The boys were interested in the animals and Brent and I were awestruck by the view.

Directly below the viewpoint, lies a Jewish cemetary. It is solemn–the gravestones almost seem to fade into the earth.

When you look out from the mountain, you see the dominating Dome of the Rock–the Muslim Shrine which sits on temple mount. Temple mount is sacred to both the Jews and the muslims.

I shall post some pictures so you can see how impressive the view was.

And yes, we fell  victim to the animals. We bargained with the man who was tending the white donkey. We have a great family picture with it.

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A Disclaimer

Before I go into any detail about the sites we saw in Jerusalem, you have to understand that we saw many things in one day.

We visited:

1. Mount of Olives

2. BYU Jerusalem Center

3. The Jewish Quarter for lunch

4. The Western or Wailing Wall

5. The Church of all Nations

6. The Garden of Gethsamane

7. The Orson Hyde Park

8. The Garden Tomb

9. A stop to barter for some presents

This was all in one day. It may not sound like much to some, but it was really a lot. Add this to the fact that we had 4 children under the age of 8.  I hope you understand that I didn’t spend a lot of time pondering. I was just digesting and letting everything soak in. I knew beforehand that we would be busy tending to the children and that they would move in a fast pace. So I took as many pictures as I could and stored thoughts in my memory. My time for pondering came after the fact.

We chose these sites because they were the most important to me. If we had to leave Israel tomorrow, I would know that I had seen the most important. If all goes well, we’ll plan another trip to Jerusalem and see other things.

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Friday began early for us. We finished packing for the weekend and then ate breakfast. By 9:00 we met Josh, our guide for the day. Josh has lived in Israel for a year and a half and has been to Jerusalem many times. I was glad to have him as a guide because, by the end of the day, we realized there is no way we could have found and seen all the sights we saw in such a short period of time.

I realize that many of you will never have an opportunity to go, so I’ll try and describe what it looks like. First, we live near Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is a fairly new city–built in the late 1800’s and looks much like any modern city. There are high rises all over with businesses, apartment buildings, etc.

We live southeast of Tel Aviv. Rehovot was founded by farmers and is still known for its orchards. When I think of Israel, I typically think of dry, desert, barren land. But neither Tel Aviv nor Rehovot is that barren. Rehovot has palm trees and orange trees all over. Even the road dividers have orange trees. The Weizmann institute campus is positively lush, abounding with trees, flowers, grass, bushes, etc. So I’ve had to revise my original picture of Israel. I realize that when you go east of Jerusalem and south, you are truly in wilderness and desert area. But the part of Israel that has become somewhat familar to me really has a lot of green.

So we drove east of Rehovot to Jerusalem on the freeway. I was surprised by all the trees I saw. As we came closer to Jerusalem, it became more and more hilly and rocky. We drove through a canyon.  We started to see villages and small towns built on the hills. And quite often, we saw roadside stands. I hear the strawberries are delicious this time of year. At various intersections and bus stops, we saw hitchhikers thumbing their ways to various places. There were quite a few young orthodox men thumbing rides. If you were stopped at a light, you were bound to see these young men walking down the line of cars, asking for a ride.

From what I’ve read in guidebooks, this is common on Fridays as everyone is trying to get home for the weekend before Shabbot begins.

And then we drove into Jerusalem. It is so hard to describe. But from what we saw, Jerusalem is literally built on a mountain or tall hill. And the city is built up from the valley to the top. I know many of you have seen pictures of the beigish-whitish limestone city. And all I can really say is that it really does look like that.

It just really hit me hard that Jerusalem is a city that is 3000 years old. You can feel it and see it as you look at ancient, old, and modern buildings.

Jerusalem is a holy city-sacred to three major religions: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Everywhere there are churches built by the Christians from multiple denominations. The Dome of the Rock is very prominent. And then the fact that the city was conquered and established as the city of King David–himself a Jew–just permeates the whole feeling of the city.

I better stop there and start a new post so I don’t overwhelm you.

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Shalom Shabbot,

We have returned from our world-wind day in Jerusalem, spending the night at some new friends’ home, and going to church.

I am still in complete and utter awe. Our day in Jerusalem was completely amazing. I saw so many things that I think I am going to need to days, weeks, or even years to process it all. I did take pictures–over 200 pictures.

I will write about the sites this week. I’m glad my weekdays are so quiet and restful. I’m going to need the full week to recover from Friday!

Anyhow, I did want to say that it was magnificent. I’ve had so many thoughts and impressions that it will take time to sort everything out.

But, I do have to say one thing before I close this entry: if you ever, ever, ever get the chance to go to Jerusalem, do it. Please take the opportunity. It is amazing.

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I can’t believe how quickly the days go by. This day has been a great one. The boys have been great, I’ve had time to be creative (i.e. scrapbooking) and even had time to think.

While at the playground this morning, I met a nice woman from Hungary. We had a great conversation. She had some very interesting thoughts about families and life in Hungary.

 She especially highlighted the unique situation that many post-doc families find themselves in: moving from place to place–not feeling settled. I felt her comments about living in a foreign country were very accurate. But another post about that another day.

 Brooke has started to do the funniest thing when I take her pictures. In the past, she has smiled very big for the camera and the moment I click the shutter, she stops smiling. Yesterday Brent and I tried very hard to get her to smile for the camera. Today, I took some pictures of her and each time I snapped a picture, she opened her mouth wide. . . in a huge grimace. It was hilarious. I’m not sure if she meant it as a smile. Anyhow, she is progressing on her way to big smiles when we take pictures.

Tomorrow we are going to Jerusalem as I mentioned earlier. I’m excited and yet feel a little strange. I guess I’ve always thought of pilgrims in the context of going to a church and looking at a bone or a some sacred relic and pretending to have a religious experience. (Don’t ask me why, I realize it is a strange association to have of pilgrims. It probably has something to do with the literature I have read and some of the things I have studied.) So while I look forward to visiting these places that are holy, I feel a bit ambivelant. I want to take pictures, but is it sacriligious to take a picture of a sacred place? I guess I take pictures in front of the temple and I consider temples sacred. Nor do I think it is strange when others take pictures of sacred sites. I guess it has a lot to do with one’s attitude at the site.

I’m not sure what to expect tomorrow. We’ll focus mainly on sites that have meaning for my faith. I think our next visit will be more concentrated in the city and will focus more on Jewish history and culture.

So this was probably a strange post. Sometimes it is so hard to articulate one’s thoughts about something. I realize that I must not have completely thought out my feelings, otherwise, my writing would have more clarity.

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